Country Trees, New York City: Tales From My Childhood


We were once those people that lived out in the woods in a double-wide trailer.

My step father and mother beamed as they described the trailer out in Eastover, South Carolina, with its yellow shutters and egg white shingles. It had a wooden front porch that awkwardly jutted out of the rear with splintered wooden stairs and green plants that seemed to sprout from between the uneven cracks. I used to bend over and pull a sticky strand up on my way inside. My stepfather had been working on that double wide and we moved in before they installed the toilet. We would just have to pee outside for the week, was what he said. We didn’t seem to mind. We loved those tall trees that hung over the double wide like a forest fortress. We couldn’t wait to explore what was beyond those long trunks and dainty branches swinging high in the cool sun. My sister and I would pretend we had a secret garden, walking through the leaves, chanting in prose and picking up tweeds to bat at the air.

We sat on the large trunks and climbed the trees until the sun came down. At one point we sat on an abandoned wooden plank to pee and rushed home when we discovered that fire ants were crawling all over us. That was also the first time, my stepfather bought us pets. He locked two puppies, brother and sister, in the bathroom, where they scrambled, scratched, and pooped all over the floor. We didn’t have a cage for them yet. Then there was the second pet he bought us. A lily white bunny rabbit we named Snowflake. We kept Snowflake in a cage in back of the trailer and by the shed. We would emerge from the trailer three times a day with sprightly green cabbages, sooted brown carrots, and any other vegetables we could sneak away from our own plates. We watched him eat with our knees buried in the dirt and our hands in our laps, sometimes sticking our slender fingers through the cage frame to petted his soft, pink nose. He would wriggle in satisfaction.

Snowflake would die one day, when we left him alone for a weekend. We came back to find his fur all over the cage. My stepdad said a wild fox had gotten to him. I remember not crying for Snowflake, but of the possibility of ending up like her. Dead after venturing into our imaginary hideaway place in the woods, with my brown skin sprawled across the damp leaves near a large tree stump. Our dog also died later that year due to heart problems. We buried him in the backyard near a large anthill, where his skull was later unearthed by his baby sister. We stared out the lace white curtains as she pranced around the backyard with the bone in her mouth- an ode or dog-like dedication to her loss.

Fast forward to 2012.

I am lugging two large suitcases from Penn Station, and having a hard time keeping my purse harnessed on my shoulder blade. I drag those bags with everything in me to that brightly lit curb in the middle of New York City. It is my first time here alone. I am just too tired to care though. I want to get in a cab, drop my bags, and lay on my pre-made sublet bed. People whizz in front and in back of me – some embracing family, others in a rush to get back to work from their lunch hour. Everyone is in a rush to somewhere, someone, or something. A dark- skinned man with a heavy Jamaican accent waves me down from the side of his cab, but doesn’t get out. Instead the next cab driver with a sign in his hand, grabs my bags and hoists them up into the trunk. I thank him and climb into the back.

I am a long way from the double-wide out in Eastover. As a matter of fact, we had moved from that place when I was still a little girl. However, as the cab neared the highway with the sun going down below the horizon, those yellow shutters were all I saw. I thought about those green leafs breaking through the wooden planks in the porch, and the brown, reddish dirt in our driveway, the calming silence, and the trailer like a matchbox encased in a sea of unruly trees rooted all around. I was a long way from where I’d come from, but I would worry about that later.

Right now, I needed to get somewhere and I was in a rush.

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